Zeitgeist

Gory Road

New allies accompany the constables along the risky path to the occupied military fort.

Beset by a crazed Danoran gunman and elementals of earth and shadow, Leocamp Assurgent scramble to secure the base of the mine. With their opponents striking from higher scaffolding, Lethe unleashes a lance of cold that destroys the shadow stalker, as Talus prepares to engage the earth elemental. It, however, is blasted to shambles by a bullet courtesy of Nex. The old miner shoots wildly at the constables from the safety of the topmost landing. Utsusemi slinks beneath the scaffolding unseen, attempting to reach the base of a rope dangling from the crane next to the miner.

Meanwhile, unexpected help arrives for our heroes! A mysterious half-elf sneaks up behind the miner and fires at him with a shortbow, barely missing but revealing the firegem contents of the barrels he’s using for cover. Nex and Utsusemi grab hold of the rope while Nex fires upward, severing the counterweight and launching them instantaneously to the apex landing. Now right in the Danoran’s face, they see that he’s enthralled by the dulcet melody of the half-elf’s song. Nex and Utsusemi, along with Talus, approach the old man carefully, while Lethe pries the golden talisman from the splinter of stone. She recognizes the inscriptions on it that tie it’s magic to Avilona, the Plane of Air. As soon as she claims it, a heretofore unseen air elemental swoops down from the dark ceiling of the cavern, presenting itself to the druid. She backs away carefully, but soon realizes that the creature is offering its services.

The old man happens to be wearing two similar talismans. Utsusemi doesn’t hesitate and hamstrings the hysterical old-timer, breaking the bard’s musical enchantment. The miner attempts to flee, limping away over the barrels, but is finally laid low by a well-placed arrow.

After they cuff the Danoran, the bard introduces himself to Leocamp. He is Deren, a RHC deep-cover spy dispatched to keep tabs on the Danorans long before the Duchess‘s rebels invaded Axis Island. He explains that he was given a magical message to meet the infiltration team here and guide them to the fort. Deren knows that the Danorans have been studying the island’s planar anomalies—looking for artifacts like the talismans, using the mines as a cover. He also knows that the Duchess’s foot soldiers took the Danoran base from within, using a teleportation circle that she must have been given an access key too.

The other two talismans are tied to Nem and Urim, the planes of Void and Earth respectively. The old Danoran, Nicolas, explains during interrogations that when the Duchess attacked, he stole the other two talismans and came to this mine looking for the third. This corroborates Deren’s story about the Danoran’s intentions here—and the implications gravely concern the druid Lethe. Nicolas says the icons attract elementals tied to their specific planes but does not seem to convey any means of summoning them. Talus claims the Urim talisman, which strengthens his chassis and allows him to create walls of stone. Utsusemi excitedly takes the Nem icon, allowing him to see in the dark and become a shadow. Lethe’s Avilona talisman allows her short bursts of flight.

It is still night when the group reach the surface and behold a mass grave of Danoran workmen. While some were killed by conventional weapons, others appear to have been felled by the trees themselves—as if the forest itself came to life against them.

The constables decide to take their chances on the patrolled road to the fortress while the air elemental silently follows. They heatedly debate their plans once they reach the fort. There are five of them now, but they only have four passwall scrolls. There are concerns about their conspicuously non-human teammates moving discreetly about the fort, or being seen in the water or climbing the wall should they swim to the lighthouse. Talus suggests the honest approach of fighting their way to the gate mechanism, but is gently reminded that the Duchess has a veritable army and magical support from the fey to boot. While Utsusemi could theoretically bypass enemies and sneak to the switch, he’d have no chance of holding it open long enough for the Risuri navy to get through. A few consider whether or not their task is even within their means.

Their first encounter along the road is an overturned wagon and scattered weapons, some usable. All sense a trap. Utsusemi approaches cautiously, but even his keen insectoid senses fail to detect the magical glyphs strung throughout the area. As he picks up an axe-musket for his friend Talus, the glyph triggers a blast of winter cold—which fails to affect the ice-caste dromite at all! Nex promises to repair the damaged weapon when they have spare time.

After another hour or so of impassioned debate on the road, the constables hear something large and mechanical stomping toward them through the trees. They break for a run, but Lethe, ever curious and concerned about the Danorans’ activities here, follows her teammates’ hasty retreat only reluctantly.

Soon after, Lethe detects the chatter of a patrol ahead—five of the Duchess’s rebel soldiers. The constables make for the wood to find hiding places, but the soldiers spot Lethe and Deren. The bard, thinking quickly, quickly uses an illusory disguise to assume the form of a wounded rebel soldier. Lethe pretends to be administering his wounds. The platoon captain, a mystic with an inquisitive owl, questions Deren and believes his bluff about losing the rest of his squad to a robotic monster. However, he is less persuaded by Lethe’s lie about being one of the Duchess’s allies. Deren immediately claims to have never seen the elf before.

The platoon shaman assumes the mechanical monster is likely long-gone. Though the troupe do not forcefully detain or disarm her—in case she just might be one of the Duchess’s after all—they insist Lethe accompany them to the fort to verify her claims. The rest of the constables follow along in the wood for a few seconds before Talus inevitably reveals his lumbering presence by crunching a rotted log underfoot. As soon as they spot him, Nex bursts from the bush guns blazing—and the shaman is cut down by hail of bullets.

The air elemental takes its cue and swoops down from the dark sky to strike at Lethe’s guards, while two of the footmen raise swords against Talus; a futile gesture, they struggle to even put a dent in his chassis. Working like never before in martial symmetry, Leocamp Assurgent make short work of two more of the rebels, and the remaining two decide to flee in separate directions. These are quickly brought low by bullets and arrows.

The survivors are interrogated, and though they claim to be the “true patriots of Risur” they barely hesitate to reveal the password for the main gate—"Sokana." Having captured five tabards and standards of the duchy of Shale, our heroes proceed to the fort, while they formulate a new, better plan with a more favorable chance of success.

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